- Home & Garden
Writing a Business Plan
While it may be tempting to put off, creating a business plan is an essential part of starting your own business. Plans and proposals should be put in a clear format making it easy for potential investors to understand. Because every company has a different goal and product or service to offer, there are business plan templates readily available to help you get on the right track. Many of these templates can be adapted for any company. In general, a business plan writing guide will recommend that the following sections be incorporated into your plan.
The executive summary is the first section that business plans open with, but is often the last section to actually be written as it’s the most difficult to write. The executive summary is a summary of the overall plan that highlights the key points and gives the reader an idea of what lies ahead in the document. It should include areas such as the business opportunity, target market, marketing and sales strategy, competition, the summary of the financial plan, staff members and a summary of how the plan will be implemented. This section needs to be extremely clear, concise and engaging as you don’t want the reader to push your hard work aside.
The company description follows the executive summary and should cover all the details about the company itself. For example, if you are writing a business plan for an internet café, you would want to include the name of the company, where the café would be located, who the main team members involved are and why, how large the company is, who the target market for the internet cafe is, what type of business structure the café is, such as LLC, sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation, what the internet café business mission and vision statements are, and what the business’s short-term objectives are.
Services and Products
This is the exciting part of the plan where you get to explain what new and improved services or products you are offering. On top of describing the product or service itself, include in the plan what is currently in the market in this area, what problems there are in this area and how your product is the solution. For example, in a business plan for a food truck, perhaps there are numerous other food trucks in the area, but they are all fast –food style and unhealthy so, you want to introduce fast food that serves only organic and fresh ingredients every day. This is where you can also list your price points and future products or services you anticipate.
The market analysis section will take time to write and research as a lot of effort and research need to go into it. Here is where you have the opportunity to describe what trends are showing up, what the growth rate in this sector looks like, what the current size of this industry is and who your target audience is. A cleaning business plan, for example, may include how this sector has been growing by 10% every year due to an increase in large businesses being built in the city.
Organization and Management
Marketing and sales are the part of the business plan where you explain how you will attract and retain clients. How are you reaching your target customers and what incentives do you offer that will keep them coming back? For a dry cleaner business plan, perhaps if they refer customers, they will get 10% off their next visit. In addition, you may want to explain what needs to be done in order for the business to be profitable. This is a great way of showing that you are conscious about what clear steps need to be taken to make a business successful.
Financial Projections & Appendix
The financial business plan section can be a tricky one to write as it is based on projections. Usually what is included is the short-term projection, which is a year broken down by month and should include start-up permits, equipment, and licenses that are required. This is followed by a three-year projection broken down by year and many often write a five-year projection, but this does not need to be included in the business plan.
The appendix is the last section and contains all the supporting documents and/or required material. This often includes resumes of those involved in the company, letters of reference, product pictures and credit histories. Keep in mind that your business plan is always in development and should be adjusted regularly as your business grows and changes.
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How to Write a Nonprofit Business Plan in 11 Steps
- by Alexandra Sheehan
- Starting Up
- Dec 15, 2021
- 13 minute read
While businesses exist primarily to make a profit, nonprofits instead serve the public good for charitable, religious, educational, or other public service reasons. Starting a business as a nonprofit organization is an excellent way to impact positive change for a cause you care about. Plus, nonprofits are exempt from federal and state taxes on any income earned, unlike for-profit corporations. So there are also financial benefits.
If you’re just getting started with your nonprofit idea, one of the first things you’ll want to document is your nonprofit business plan. Below, we’ll take you through your nonprofit business plan, section by section, using this business plan template and guide as a base.
How to write a nonprofit business plan
Create an executive summary
Write an organization description
Conduct market analysis
Outline management and organization
Describe programs, products, and services
Document customer segmentation
Create a marketing plan
Create a logistics and operations plan
Write an impact plan
Outline the financial plan
Make a positive change with your nonprofit organization
1. Create an executive summary
The first section of your nonprofit business plan is your executive summary . The executive summary should describe your organization and the contents of your nonprofit business plan. This section should be no more than a page, briefly covering the following:
- Concept . What does your nonprofit organization do?
- Goals and vision . What does your nonprofit want to do?
- Product description and differentiation . What do you sell, and why is it different?
- Target market . Who do you sell to and raise money from? Who do you serve?
- Marketing strategy . How do you plan on reaching your audience?
- Current and projected financial state . What do you currently earn through fundraising? What do you foresee earning through fundraising?
- The ask . How much money are you asking for?
- The team . Who’s involved in the organization?
- The document . What can your audience expect from the following sections of your nonprofit business plan? Which highlights should they be excited about?
2. Write an organization description
The second section of your nonprofit business plan is the description of your organization. While the executive summary sets the stage for the business plan document, the organization description is a summary focused on your organization and what it does and aspires to do. Use this section to identify the industry or niche your organization operates in.
Here, you’ll want to identify the structure of your organization. A nonprofit is a tax-exempt, non-business entity that invests excess funds back into the mission. For nonprofits, you’ll typically register as a 501(c)(3) but you’ll also need to choose your business structure from the following list:
- Unincorporated association . This is the S corporation for nonprofits—you don’t need to file any paperwork. Many nonprofits start out as unincorporated associations.
- Trust . The first structure for nonprofits, this mandates all the organization’s assets be given to charitable use.
- Corporation . This structure offers the most protection from liabilities but also comes with some extra paperwork and fees.
- Limited liability company (LLC) . LLCs offer both tax benefits and limited fees, but not as much protection as a corporation. All members of the LLC must be 501(c)(3) organizations. See our state specific guides for California LLC , Texas LLC and Florida LLC .
Learn more: Sole Proprietorship vs. LLC: Which is the Better Option for Your Ecommerce Business?
The organization description should also include the following elements:
Mission and vision statement
Your mission and vision statement serve as the foundation for why your nonprofit exists, and this “why” influences your decision making. It’s also an effective tool for connecting with your audience and reaching your organization’s full potential.
Outdoor brand Cotopaxi also has a nonprofit arm— the Cotopaxi Foundation . The brand and nonprofit each have their own mission statements, published boldly on the company’s website:
The blurb below from Keiko Conservation’s website could also be repurposed into a mission or vision statement:
Keep your mission statement on the shorter side (one to two sentences) and use your vision statement to expand on the ideas.
Your value proposition tells people why they should choose to support your nonprofit over other ones. It essentially outlines your unique selling proposition , or competitive advantage for what sets you apart from the competition.
Short- and long-term goals
Your nonprofit business plan should also include measurable short- and long-term goals. Cotopaxi, for example, makes no secret of both its socially driven and business-minded goals through the Cotopaxi Foundation:
The Empowerment Plan hires single parents from shelters, training them to make coats. It also shares relevant metrics to show its impact. These metrics would also work as excellent measurable goals to include in its nonprofit business plan. Perhaps it would aim to double those numbers in the next year, projecting 180 new jobs, 550 impacted children, and 100,000 distributed coats.
You’ll also want to highlight the people behind your organization. This information shows you have enough people to make the nonprofit a success. Nonprofits typically have a few different “teams,” including a board of directors, paid staff, and maybe even volunteers. There may also be key donors who are worth noting here, as well as key people who you plan to help through your organization.
Re:new is a community of refugee artisans and students, volunteers, staff, and board members. It raises money by selling handcrafted products made by refugees from around the world. On its website, Re:new shares information about some of the people behind the organization, including board members, artisans, and paid staff.
For the nonprofit business plan, Re:new would also outline how those board members are chosen and what their involvement is, salaries and roles for paid staff members, and payment information for the artisans. Remember to note this information in your nonprofit business plan as well.
3. Conduct market analysis
The market analysis section of your nonprofit business plan demonstrates that you’ve done research to determine there is a need for your services and people who will potentially support your mission. Here, you’re essentially determining how big your potential market is.
There are a few key ways to get information about your market:
- Check government census data.
- Conduct a competitive analysis .
- Research industry trends and trajectory.
- Make educated guesses based on your experience and research.
You may also consider doing a SWOT analysis to identify your current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
4. Outline management and organization
Every organization needs people to run it. When it comes to nonprofits, this typically involves the following groups of people:
- Board of directors . Nonprofits typically have a board of directors or leadership team. Give Merit, for example, would include its leadership team in this section.
- Staff . These people are your paid employees. Include roles, responsibilities, salaries, etc.
- Volunteers . You may or may not have specific people in mind for these volunteer roles. Some nonprofits have different tiers of volunteers—maybe lead volunteers or volunteer coordinators. Make note of these individuals, if relevant.
- Donors/customers . If you have any significant or notable donors who plan to make sizable contributions, include them in this section of your nonprofit business plan.
- Recipients . These are the people who you’re planning to help. This may not always be a person (as is the case with environmentally driven nonprofits, for example). Sometimes this is a group of people and sometimes this is a specific person.
Sometimes these groups overlap. The Empowerment Plan, for example, actually hires the people it helps—one of the organization’s main pillars.
5. Describe programs, products, and services
Your programs, products, and services section sums up what your organization offers. These offerings include everything for customers, donors, volunteers, and recipients. A farmers market, for example, may sell tables to its vendors, give branded tote bags to donors, sell handmade goods to shoppers, and create programs to feed underprivileged families.
Merit sells products as a brand on its website and then donates a proceeds of its sales to its nonprofit, Give Merit. So Merit would note all of these things in this section of its nonprofit business plan.
Likewise, Re:new sells products made by the artisans it works with. The organization also sells wholesale to retailers, so it would be important to note this here in the business plan as well.
6. Document customer segmentation
You can pull from your management and organization section for your customer segmentation, as some of these groups represent your customers as well. For example, your volunteers are one key customer segment and your donors are another. Within each of these segments, you’ll want to drill down further into smaller segments so you can build targeted campaigns to recruit volunteers and/or donors when needed.
When documenting your customer segments in your nonprofit business plan, note the following information:
- Where they live
- Level of education
- How they spend their free time
- Where they work
- How much they earn
- What technology they use
- Their values, beliefs, and opinions
- Common behavior patterns
Check out these resources to learn more about customer segmentation:
- What is a Target Market & How Do I Find Mine? (Examples Included)
- Customer Segments to Build to Drive Revenue
- Drive Growth with Customer Segmentation
7. Create a marketing plan
Your marketing plan outlines how you plan to spread the word about your nonprofit organization. Marketing may include attracting donors, volunteers, and/or customers, depending how your nonprofit operates.
The four main components of this section of your nonprofit business plan are:
- Price . How much do your products cost, and why have you made that decision? If you don’t sell products, you might outline different tiers of donorship.
- Product . What are you selling and how do you differentiate it in the market? Again, if you don’t plan to sell products, outline what you plan to provide to both donors and recipients.
- Promotion . How will you get your cause in front of your ideal customer? How will you connect with recipients?
- Place . Where will you sell your products or share information about your organization? Will this be online, in person, or both?
Learn more: Press Kits: How to Create A Hype Media Kit (2021)
You may also make note of which channels you plan to leverage, including email, social media , content marketing, and paid ads. EllieFunDay had an influencer program when it was still in operation, for example.
Here are some more resources to help put together the marketing section of your nonprofit business plan:
- How to Build a Marketing Plan That Actually Works
- 7 Inspiring Marketing Plan Examples (and How You Can Implement Them)
- Driving Growth: 11 Best Marketing Strategies Any Small Business Can Execute
Learn more: Meet the Entrepreneurial Women of Social Change
8. Create a logistics and operations plan
The logistics and operations section of your nonprofit business plan outlines how you plan to raise money and execute your mission. This includes a few key sections:
- Suppliers . This could refer to the suppliers for products you sell, as well as donors who contribute financially. You might also include fundraising organizers. One Tree Planted , for example, allows volunteers to run their own independent fundraisers .
- Production . If you’re selling products to raise money for your nonprofit, this part outlines whether you manufacture yourself, purchase wholesale, or use a dropshipping company.
- Facilities . Where will your organization operate? You might outline where headquarters is, as well as any sites or locations. This may also include storage and warehousing facilities.
- Equipment . List which tools and technology you need for your nonprofit. Remember to include everything from phones and computers to vehicles and machinery.
- Shipping and fulfillment . If you need to ship any packages, determine how you’ll do this. You may ship yourself or work with a third-party fulfillment partner.
Inventory. Determine how much stock you’ll keep on hand (if any) and where you’ll store it, as well as how you’ll approach inventory management .
9. Write an impact plan
The impact plan is an important part of your nonprofit business plan because it outlines the change you’ll inspire in regards to your mission. Many companies with a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) publish their own impact plans as well. Though these impact plans aren’t part of a nonprofit business plan, they serve as great reference points for drafting this section of your plan.
LSTN Sound Co. is a headphone and speaker brand that also aims to help individuals who have hearing disabilities. The brand publishes an annual impact report outlining the contributions it has made to the cause—highlighting how choosing to be a LSTN customer is also a decision to support the cause.
Similarly, sustainable clothing and shoe brand Allbirds uses its annual sustainability report to show how the company has followed through on its own environmentally conscious CSR initiatives.
10. Outline the financial plan
Every nonprofit organization needs a financial plan. This includes how you’ll collect funds, as well as how those funds will be distributed. The financial plan typically includes the following financial statements :
- Income statement
- Balance sheet
- Cash flow statement
As far as potential sources of funding, you may consider the following for your nonprofit business plan:
- Self-funding . If you have the means, you may support your nonprofit organization financially yourself. You can do this personally or through a business—like how ecommerce brand Merit donates 20% of all purchases to its organization Give Merit , which funds college scholarships for underserved youth.
- Donors . You may seek financial support from organizations, businesses, and individuals. You may also use crowdfunding sites to raise funds and build buzz for your cause.
- Investors . The downside here is that you have to pay the money back, which isn’t ideal for nonprofits in particular.
- Loans . Loans also require repayment. Check with your lender to see if it offers lower interest rates or other benefits to nonprofits. Non-profits with a Shopify store can leverage simple loans based on sales history, which may be a more hassle-free option.
- Credit cards . Credit cards typically come with high interest rates and lower limits, so be wary about the terms before you fund your organization this way.
Use this spreadsheet template , which includes everything you’ll need to create an income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement, including some sample numbers. You can edit it to reflect projections for your specific organization.
Make a positive change with your nonprofit business plan
Starting a nonprofit organization is an excellent way to make a difference for a cause you’re passionate about. The best way to kickstart your nonprofit organization is with a well-formulated business plan. Your nonprofit business plan will help you secure funding and build excitement for your organization.
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Nonprofit business plan faq, what should be in a nonprofit business plan.
- Executive summary
- Organization description
- Market analysis
- Management and organization
- Programs, products, and services
- Customer segmentation
- Marketing plan
- Logistics and operations plan
- Impact plan
- Financial plan
What are the 4 types of nonprofit organizations?
- Unincorporated association
- Limited liability company (LLC)
How do you start a nonprofit with no money?
Do nonprofit organization owners make money, join 446,005 entrepreneurs who already have a head start..
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The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Nonprofit Business Plan
Nonprofit business plans are dead — or are they?
For many nonprofit organizations, business plans represent outdated and cumbersome documents that get created “just for the sake of it” or because donators demand it.
However, a business plan can still be an invaluable tool for your nonprofit . Even a short nonprofit business plan pushes you to do research, crystallize your purpose, and polish your messaging.
Furthermore, without a nonprofit business plan, you’ll have a harder time obtaining loans and grants , attracting corporate donors, meeting qualified board members, and keeping your nonprofit on track.
Even excellent ideas can be totally useless if you cannot formulate, execute and implement a strategic plan to make your idea work.
So let’s dive into it…
What is a Nonprofit Business Plan?
Why do we need a nonprofit business plan, 10-step guide on writing a business plan for nonprofits.
- Do’s and Dont’s of Nonprofit Business Plans – Tips
Nonprofit Business Plan Template
Note: Steps 1, 2, and 3 are in preparation for writing your nonprofit business plan.
Step 1: Data Collection
Step 2: heart of the matter, step 3: outline, step 4: products, programs, and services, step 5: marketing plan, step 6: operational plan, step 7: impact plan, step 8: financial plan, step 9: executive summary, step 10: appendix.
Before even getting started with the writing collect financial, operating, and other relevant data. If your nonprofit is already in operation, this should at the very least include financial statements detailing operating expense reports and a spreadsheet that indicates funding sources.
If your nonprofit is new, compile materials related to any secured funding sources and operational funding projections, including anticipated costs.
You are a nonprofit after all! Your nonprofit business plan should start off with an articulation of the core values and your mission statement . Outline your vision, your guiding philosophy, and any other principles that provide the purpose behind the work. This will help you to refine and communicate your nonprofit message clearly.
The United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) mission statement is just shy of 300 words and states:
“UNICEF insists that the survival, protection, and development of children are universal development imperatives that are integral to human progress.”
Your nonprofit mission statement can also help establish your milestones, the problems your organization seeks to solve, who your organization serves, and its future goals.
Do’s and Dont’s of Nonprofit Business Plans – Tips
- Write clearly, using simple and easy-to-understand language.
- Get to the point, support it with facts, and then move on.
- Include relevant graphs and program descriptions.
- Include an executive summary.
- Provide sufficient financial information.
- Customize your business plan to different audiences.
- Stay authentic and show enthusiasm.
- Make the business plan too long.
- Use too much technical jargon.
- Overload the plan with text.
- Rush the process of writing, but don’t drag it either.
- Gush about the cause without providing a clear understanding of how you will help the cause through your activities.
- Keep your formatting consistent.
- Use standard 1-inch margins.
- Use a reasonable font size for the body, such as 12 points.
- For print, use a serif font like Times New Roman or Courier. For digital, use sans serifs like Verdana or Arial.
- Start a new page before each section.
- Don’t allow your plan to print and leave a single line on an otherwise blank page.
- Have several people read over the plan before it is printed to make sure it’s totally free of error.
To help you get started we’ve created a nonprofit business plan template. It will work as a framework regardless of your nonprofit’s area of focus. Click here to gain access to the document.
At Donorbox, we strive to make your nonprofit experience as productive as possible, whether through our donation software or through our advice and guides on the nonprofit blog .
Raviraj heads the sales and marketing team at Donorbox. His growth-hacking abilities have helped Donorbox boost fundraising efforts for thousands of nonprofit organizations.
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How to write a nonprofit business plan by Sandra Beckwith
How to write a nonprofit business plan
While a nonprofit business plan is similar to that of a for-profit company, it has a few important differences, including the need for a fundraising section.
Ready to start your business?
by Sandra Beckwith updated January 06, 2023 · 3 min read
While nonprofit organizations are purpose-driven rather than profit-driven, they have a great deal in common with their for-profit counterparts.
"We may be governed by a different part of the tax code and exempt from some—but not all—taxes, but we are businesses, too," says Rick Cohen, chief operating officer at the National Council of Nonprofits.
Like other types of businesses, successful nonprofits outline their goals and how they will achieve them in a written document known as a business plan .
A nonprofit's business plan is similar to that used by a for-profit entity but has key differences. Here's what you need to know about how to write a nonprofit business plan.
Nonprofit business plan elements
For-profit business plans detail what a company does, how it does it, who does it, and how it pays for it. A nonprofit business plan outlines that as well but approaches parts of the process differently.
The biggest difference is that nonprofit organizations focus on the problem they want to solve and how to fund programs and activities that help do that.
"Nonprofits have the added burden and opportunity of impact in their business plan," says Sara Gibson, co-founder and CEO of 20 Degrees, a consulting firm serving nonprofits. "The sector doesn't measure worth in profit—it is measured in lives and in change created. That has to be part of the plan."
Typical nonprofit business plans feature many of the following elements:
- Executive summary
- Mission and goals
- Community impact
- Products, services, and programs
- Organizational structure and staffing
- Market and competitive analysis
- Fundraising and development
- Financial plan
Fundraising section is essential
For-profit businesses might be funded initially by owners or outside investors, but the ultimate goal is usually self-sufficiency through sales. Many nonprofit organizations aren't structured or created to generate income to support their community services, so fundraising is key.
"It is critical for the sustainability of nonprofits that they are constantly being connected with grants and funders who will provide the financial resources needed for these nonprofits to continue offering quality and valuable assistance to the communities they serve," says Fernando Urbina, director of outreach for ImmigrationHelp.org.
Mikko Sperber, managing partner and founder of Fundamental Strategy, recommends taking on a for-profit business mindset when writing the fundraising section of the nonprofit business plan.
"If you build your plan to have a budget surplus at the end of your year, you then have the capital to reinvest in growing your organization and furthering your mission," he says.
The organization's communication and marketing strategy feeds fundraising goals, so be thoughtful about that piece when writing a nonprofit business plan.
"If no one knows who you are, then no one will be donating to your cause," says Mike McKnight, director of operations at Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome.
Keep it real
When outlining your business plan, be realistic about fundraising and other revenue streams, then match your budget to your fundraising goal, not the other way around. "In worst-case scenarios, fundraising numbers are plugged into a budget after the programmatic expenses are figured to just offset them without a realistic plan," Sperber says.
Matching your budget to your fundraising goal is especially important because of the organization's impact on the community served, says Cohen, whose organization offers nonprofit business plan resources on its website.
"The worst thing a nonprofit can do is get to a place where people are counting on their services, but then need to close their doors, leaving those people in the lurch," he says.
To ensure your organization's business plan properly supports your mission, consider consulting with professionals such as nonprofit advisers and attorneys specializing in this sector .
Keep your nonprofit business plan handy, too. It's your organizational blueprint, but you'll also need to update it as circumstances or market conditions change.
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How to Write a Nonprofit Business Plan [Updated for 2022]
Believe it or not, creating a business plan for a nonprofit organization is not that different from planning for a traditional business.
Nonprofits sometimes shy away from using the words “business planning,” preferring to use terms like “strategic plan” or “operating plan.” But, the fact is that preparing a plan for a for-profit business and a nonprofit organization are actually pretty similar processes. Both types of organizations need to create forecasts for revenue and plan how they’re going to spend the money they bring in. They also need to manage their cash and ensure that they can stay solvent to accomplish their goals.
In this guide, I’ll explain how to create a plan for your organization that will impress your board of directors, facilitate fundraising, and ensures that you deliver on your mission.
Why does a nonprofit need a business plan?
Good business planning is about setting goals, getting everyone on the same page, tracking performance metrics, and improving over time. Even when your goal isn’t to increase profits, you still need to be able to run a fiscally healthy organization.
Business planning creates an opportunity to examine the heart of your mission , the financing you’ll need to bring that mission to fruition, and your plan to sustain your operations into the future.
Nonprofits are also responsible for meeting regularly with a board of directors and reporting on your organization’s finances is a critical part of that meeting. As part of your regular financial review with the board, you can compare your actual results to your financial forecast in your business plan. Are you meeting fundraising goals and keeping spending on track? Is the financial position of the organization where you wanted it to be?
In addition to internal use, a solid business plan can help you court major donors who will be interested in having a deeper understanding of how your organization works and your fiscal health and accountability. And you’ll definitely need a formal business plan if you intend to seek outside funding for capital expenses—it’s required by lenders.
A nonprofit business plan outline
Keep in mind that developing a business plan is an ongoing process. It isn’t about just writing a physical document that is static, but a continually evolving strategy and action plan as your organization progresses over time. It’s essential that you run regular plan review meetings to track your progress against your plan. For most nonprofits, this will coincide with regular reports and meetings with the board of directors.
A nonprofit business plan will include many of the same sections of a standard business plan outline . If you’d like to start simple, you can download our free business plan template as a Word document, and adjust it according to the nonprofit plan outline below.
The executive summary of a nonprofit business plan is typically the first section of the plan to be read, but the last to be written. That’s because this section is a general overview of everything else in the business plan – the overall snapshot of what your vision is for the organization.
Write it as though you might share with a prospective donor, or someone unfamiliar with your organization: avoid internal jargon or acronyms, and write it so that someone who has never heard of you would understand what you’re doing.
Your executive summary should provide a very brief overview of your organization’s mission. It should describe who you serve, how you provide the services that you offer, and how you fundraise.
If you are putting together a plan to share with potential donors, you should include an overview of what you are asking for and how you intend to use the funds raised.
Start this section of your nonprofit plan by describing the problem that you are solving for your clients or your community at large. Then say how your organization solves the problem.
A great way to present your opportunity is with a positioning statement . Here’s a formula you can use to define your positioning:
For [target market description] who [target market need], [this product] [how it meets the need]. Unlike [key competition], it [most important distinguishing feature].
And here’s an example of a positioning statement using the formula:
For children, ages five to 12 (target market) who are struggling with reading (their need), Tutors Changing Lives (your organization or program name) helps them get up to grade-level reading through a once a week class (your solution).
Unlike the school district’s general after-school homework lab (your state-funded competition), our program specifically helps children learn to read within six months (how you’re different).
Your organization is special or you wouldn’t spend so much time devoted to it. Layout some of the nuts and bolts about what makes it great in this opening section of your business plan. Your nonprofit probably changes lives, changes your community, or maybe even changes the world. Explain how it does this.
This is where you really go into detail about the programs you’re offering. You’ll want to describe how many people you serve and how you serve them.
In a for-profit business plan, this section would be used to define your target market . For nonprofit organizations, it’s basically the same thing but framed as who you’re serving with your organization. Who benefits from your services?
Not all organizations have clients that they serve directly, so you might exclude this section if that’s the case. For example, an environmental preservation organization might have a goal of acquiring land to preserve natural habitats. The organization isn’t directly serving individual groups of people and is instead trying to benefit the environment as a whole.
Everyone has competition —nonprofits, too. You’re competing with other nonprofits for donor attention and support, and you’re competing with other organizations serving your target population. Even if your program is the only one in your area providing a specific service, you still have competition.
Think about what your prospective clients were doing about their problem (the one your organization is solving) before you came on this scene. If you’re running an after-school tutoring organization, you might be competing with after school sports programs for clients. Even though your organizations have fundamentally different missions.
For many nonprofit organizations, competing for funding is an important issue. You’ll want to use this section of your plan to explain who donors would choose your organization instead of similar organizations for their donations.
Future services and programs
If you’re running a regional nonprofit, do you want to be national in five years? If you’re currently serving children ages two to four, do you want to expand to ages five to 12? Use this section to talk about your long-term goals.
Just like a traditional business, you’ll benefit by laying out a long-term plan. Not only does it help guide your nonprofit, but it also provides a roadmap for the board as well as potential investors.
Promotion and outreach strategies
In a for-profit business plan, this section would be about marketing and sales strategies. For nonprofits, you’re going to talk about how you’re going to reach your target client population.
You’ll probably do some combination of:
- Advertising: print and direct mail, television, radio, and so on.
- Public relations: press releases, activities to promote brand awareness, and so on.
- Digital marketing: website, email, blog, social media, and so on.
Similar to the “target audience” section above, you may remove this section if you don’t promote your organization to clients and others who use your services.
Costs and fees
Instead of including a pricing section, a nonprofit business plan should include a costs or fees section.
Talk about how your program is funded, and whether the costs your clients pay are the same for everyone, or based on income level, or something else. If your clients pay less for your service than it costs to run the program, how will you make up the difference?
If you don’t charge for your services and programs, you can state that here or remove this section.
Fundraising is critical for most nonprofit organizations. This portion of your business plan will detail who your key fundraising sources are.
Similar to understanding who your target audience for your services is, you’ll also want to know who your target market is for fundraising. Who are your supporters? What kind of person donates to your organization? Creating a “donor persona” could be a useful exercise to help you reflect on this subject and streamline your fundraising approach.
You’ll also want to define different tiers of prospective donors and how you plan on connecting with them. You’re probably going to include information about your annual giving program (usually lower-tier donors) and your major gifts program (folks who give larger amounts).
If you’re a private school, for example, you might think of your main target market as alumni who graduated during a certain year, at a certain income level. If you’re building a bequest program to build your endowment, your target market might be a specific population with interest in your cause who is at retirement age.
Do some research. The key here is not to report your target donors as everyone in a 3,000-mile radius with a wallet. The more specific you can be about your prospective donors —their demographics, income level, and interests, the more targeted (and less costly) your outreach can be.
How will you reach your donors with your message? Use this section of your business plan to explain how you will market your organization to potential donors and generate revenue.
You might use a combination of direct mail, advertising, and fundraising events. Detail the key activities and programs that you’ll use to reach your donors and raise money.
Strategic alliances and partnerships
Use this section to talk about how you’ll work with other organizations. Maybe you need to use a room in the local public library to run your program for the first year. Maybe your organization provides mental health counselors in local schools, so you partner with your school district.
In some instances, you might also be relying on public health programs like Medicaid to fund your program costs. Mention all those strategic partnerships here, especially if your program would have trouble existing without the partnership.
Milestones and metrics
Without milestones and metrics for your nonprofit, it will be more difficult to execute on your mission. Milestones and metrics are guideposts along the way that are indicators that your program is working and that your organization is healthy.
They might include elements of your fundraising goals—like monthly or quarterly donation goals, or it might be more about your participation metrics. Since most nonprofits working with foundations for grants do complex reporting on some of these, don’t feel like you have to re-write every single goal and metric for your organization here. Think about your bigger goals, and if you need to, include more information in your business plan’s appendix.
If you’re revisiting your plan on a monthly basis, and we recommend that you do, the items here might speak directly to the questions you know your board will ask in your monthly trustee meeting. The point is to avoid surprises by having eyes on your organization’s performance. Having these goals, and being able to change course if you’re not meeting them, will help your organization avoid falling into a budget deficit.
Key assumptions and risks
Your nonprofit exists to serve a particular population or cause. Before you designed your key programs or services, you probably did some research to validate that there’s a need for what you’re offering.
But you probably are also taking some calculated risks. In this section, talk about the unknowns for your organization. If you name them, you can address them.
For example, if you think there’s a need for a children’s literacy program, maybe you surveyed teachers or parents in your area to verify the need. But because you haven’t launched the program yet, one of your unknowns might be whether the kids will actually show up.
Management team and company
Who is going to be involved and what are their duties? What do these individuals bring to the table?
Include both the management team of the day-to-day aspects of your nonprofit as well as board members and mention those who may overlap between the two roles. Highlight their qualifications: titles, degrees, relevant past accomplishments, and designated responsibilities should be included in this section. It adds a personal touch to mention team members who are especially qualified because they’re close to the cause or have special first-hand experience with or knowledge of the population you’re serving.
There are probably some amazing, dedicated people with stellar qualifications on your team—this is the place to feature them (and don’t forget to include yourself!).
The financial plan is essential to any organization that’s seeking funding, but also incredibly useful internally to keep track of what you’ve done so far financially and where you’d like to see the organization go in the future.
The financial section of your business plan should include a long-term budget and cash flow statement with a three to five-year forecast. This will allow you to see that the organization has its basic financial needs covered. Any nonprofit has its standard level of funding required to stay operational, so it’s essential to make sure your organization will consistently maintain at least that much in the coffers.
From that point, it’s all about future planning: If you exceed your fundraising goals, what will be done with the surplus? What will you do if you don’t meet your fundraising goals? Are you accounting for appropriate amounts going to payroll and administrative costs over time? Thinking through a forecast of your financial plan over the next several years will help ensure that your organization is sustainable.
Money management skills are just as important in a nonprofit as they are in a for-profit business. Knowing the financial details of your organization is incredibly important in a world where the public is ranking the credibility of charities based on what percentage of donations makes it to the programs and services. As a nonprofit, people are interested in the details of how money is being dispersed within organizations, with this information often being posted online on sites like Charity Navigator, so the public can make informed decisions about donating.
Potential contributors will do their research—so make sure you do too. No matter who your donors are, they will want to know they can trust your organization with their money. A robust financial plan is a solid foundation for reference that your nonprofit is on the right track.
Business planning is ongoing
It’s important to remember that a business plan doesn’t have to be set in stone. It acts as a roadmap, something that you can come back to as a guide, then revise and edit to suit your purpose at a given time.
I recommend that you review your financial plan once a month to see if your organization is on track, and then revise your plan as necessary.
Our free business plan template can help you work through each section of your plan. Also, be sure to check out a complete nonprofit business plan example for reference.
If you’re looking for a tool to help you write your business plan, you may want to check out LivePlan . It can easily be configured to create a nonprofit business plan with step-by-step guidance throughout the process. You’ll be able to easily develop forecasts and compare to your actuals through a single dashboard to actively plan, adjust, and present to investors and board members. It’s a great option to keep business planning simple so you can focus on serving those that you’re hoping to help.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2014. It was updated in 2021.
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Business Planning for Nonprofits
Business planning is a way of systematically answering questions such as, “What problem(s) are we trying to solve?” or “What are we trying to achieve?” and also, “Who will get us there, by when, and how much money and other resources will it take?”
The business planning process takes into account the nonprofit’s mission and vision, the role of the board, and external environmental factors, such as the climate for fundraising.
Ideally, the business planning process also critically examines basic assumptions about the nonprofit’s operating environment. What if the sources of income that exist today change in the future? Is the nonprofit too reliant on one foundation for revenue? What happens if there’s an economic downturn?
A business plan can help the nonprofit and its board be prepared for future risks. What is the likelihood that the planned activities will continue as usual, and that revenue will continue at current levels – and what is Plan B if they don't?
Narrative of a business plan
You can think of a business plan as a narrative or story explaining how the nonprofit will operate given its activities, its sources of revenue, its expenses, and the inevitable changes in its internal and external environments over time. Ideally, your plan will tell the story in a way that will make sense to someone not intimately familiar with the nonprofit’s operations.
According to Propel Nonprofits , business plans usually should have four components that identify revenue sources/mix; operations costs; program costs; and capital structure.
A business plan outlines the expected income sources to support the charitable nonprofit's activities. What types of revenue will the nonprofit rely on to keep its engine running – how much will be earned, how much from government grants or contracts, how much will be contributed? Within each of those broad categories, how much diversification exists, and should they be further diversified? Are there certain factors that need to be in place in order for today’s income streams to continue flowing?
The plan should address the everyday costs needed to operate the organization, as well as costs of specific programs and activities.
The plan may include details about the need for the organization's services (a needs assessment), the likelihood that certain funding will be available (a feasibility study), or changes to the organization's technology or staffing that will be needed in the future.
Another aspect of a business plan could be a "competitive analysis" describing what other entities may be providing similar services in the nonprofit's service and mission areas. What are their sources of revenue and staffing structures? How do their services and capacities differ from those of your nonprofit?
Finally, the business plan should name important assumptions, such as the organization's reserve policies. Do your nonprofit’s policies require it to have at least six months of operating cash on hand? Do you have different types of cash reserves that require different levels of board approval to release?
The idea is to identify the known, and take into consideration the unknown, realities of the nonprofit's operations, and propose how the nonprofit will continue to be financially healthy. If the underlying assumptions or current conditions change, then having a plan can be useful to help identify adjustments that must be made to respond to changes in the nonprofit's operating environment.
Basic format of a business plan
The format may vary depending on the audience. A business plan prepared for a bank to support a loan application may be different than a business plan that board members use as the basis for budgeting. Here is a typical outline of the format for a business plan:
- Table of contents
- Executive summary - Name the problem the nonprofit is trying to solve: its mission, and how it accomplishes its mission.
- People: overview of the nonprofit’s board, staffing, and volunteer structure and who makes what happen
- Market opportunities/competitive analysis
- Programs and services: overview of implementation
- Contingencies: what could change?
- Financial health: what is the current status, and what are the sources of revenue to operate programs and advance the mission over time?
- Assumptions and proposed changes: What needs to be in place for this nonprofit to continue on sound financial footing?
More About Business Planning
Budgeting for Nonprofits
Contact your state association of nonprofits for support and resources related to business planning, strategic planning, and other fundamentals of nonprofit leadership.
- Components of transforming nonprofit business models (Propel Nonprofits)
- The matrix map: a powerful tool for nonprofit sustainability (Nonprofit Quarterly)
- The Nonprofit Business Plan: A Leader's Guide to Creating a Successful Business Model (David La Piana, Heather Gowdy, Lester Olmstead-Rose, and Brent Copen, Turner Publishing)
- Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability (Jan Masaoka, Steve Zimmerman, and Jeanne Bell)
- Sample business plan for a social enterprise (Propel Nonprofits)
Disclaimer: Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and is neither intended to be nor should be construed as legal, accounting, tax, investment, or financial advice. Please consult a professional (attorney, accountant, tax advisor) for the latest and most accurate information. The National Council of Nonprofits makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein.
Raise More & Grow Your Nonprofit.
The complete guide to writing a nonprofit business plan.
August 14, 2019
Leadership & Management
July 7, 2022
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Statistics from the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) show that there are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations currently operating in the U.S. alone. Many of these organizations are hard at work helping people in need and addressing the great issues of our time. However, doing good work doesn’t necessarily translate into long-term success and financial stability. Other information has shown that around 12% of non-profits don’t make it past the 5-year mark, and this number expands to 17% at the 10-year mark.
12% of non-profits don’t make it past the 5-year mark and 17% at the 10-year mark
There are a variety of challenges behind these sobering statistics. In many cases, a nonprofit can be sunk before it starts due to a lack of a strong nonprofit business plan. Below is a complete guide to understanding why a nonprofit needs a business plan in place, and how to construct one, piece by piece.
The purpose of a nonprofit business plan
A business plan for a nonprofit is similar to that of a for-profit business plan, in that you want it to serve as a clear, complete roadmap for your organization. When your plan is complete, questions such as "what goals are we trying to accomplish?" or "what is the true purpose of our organization?" should be clear and simple to answer.
Your nonprofit business plan should provide answers to the following questions:
1. What activities do you plan to pursue in order to meet the organization’s high level goals?
2. What's your plan on getting revenue to fund these activities?
3. What are your operating costs and specifically how do these break down?
Note that there’s a difference between a business plan and a strategic plan, though there may be some overlap. A strategic plan is more conceptual, with different ideas you have in place to try and meet the organization’s greater vision (such as fighting homelessness or raising climate change awareness). A business plan serves as an action plan because it provides, in as much detail as possible, the specifics on how you’re going to execute your strategy.
- What is the Difference Between a Business Plan and a Strategic Plan?
- Business Planning for Nonprofits
Creating a nonprofit business plan
With this in mind, it’s important to discuss the individual sections of a nonprofit business plan. Having a proper plan in a recognizable format is essential for a variety of reasons. On your business’s end, it makes sure that as many issues or questions you may encounter are addressed up front. For outside entities, such as potential volunteers or donors, it shows that their time and energy will be managed well and put to good use. So, how do you go from conceptual to concrete?
Step 1: Write a mission statement
Having a mission statement is essential for any company, but even more so for nonprofits. Your markers of success are not just how the organization performs financially, but the impact it makes for your cause.
One of the easiest ways to do this is by creating a mission statement. A strong mission statement clarifies why your organization exists and determines the direction of activities.
At the head of their ethics page , NPR has a mission statement that clearly and concisely explains why they exist. From this you learn:
- The key point of their mission: creating a more informed public that understands new ideas and cultures
- Their mechanism of executing that vision: providing and reporting news/info that meets top journalistic standards
- Other essential details: their partnership with their membership statement
You should aim for the same level of clarity and brevity in your own mission statement.
The goal of a mission statement isn’t just about being able to showcase things externally, but also giving your internal team something to realign them if they get off track.
For example, if you're considering a new program or services, you can always check the idea against the mission statement. Does it align with your higher level goal and what your organization is ultimately trying to achieve? A mission statement is a compass to guide your team and keep the organization aligned and focused.
Step 2: Collect the data
You can’t prepare for the future without some data from the past and present. This can range from financial data if you’re already in operation to secured funding if you’re getting ready to start.
Data related to operations and finances (such as revenue, expenses, taxes, etc.) is crucial for budgeting and organizational decisions.
You'll also want to collect data about your target donor. Who are they in terms of their income, demographics, location, etc. and what is the best way to reach them? Every business needs to market, and answering these demographic questions are crucial to targeting the right audience in a marketing campaign. You'll also need data about marketing costs collected from your fundraising, marketing, and CRM software and tools. This data can be extremely important for demonstrating the effectiveness of a given fundraising campaign or the organization as a whole.
Then there is data that nonprofits collect from third-party sources as to how to effectively address their cause, such as shared data from other nonprofits and data from governments.
By properly collecting and interpreting the above data, you can build your nonprofit to not only make an impact, but also ensure the organization is financially sustainable.
Step 3: Create an outline
Before you begin writing your plan, it’s important to have an outline of the sections of your plan. Just like an academic essay, it’s easier to make sure all the points are addressed by taking inventory of high level topics first. If you create an outline and find you don’t have all the materials you need to fill it, you may need to go back to the data collection stage.
Writing an outline gives you something simple to read that can easily be circulated to your team for input. Maybe some of your partners will want to emphasize an area that you missed or an area that needs more substance.
Having an outline makes it easier for you to create an organized, well-flowing piece. Each section needs to be clear on its own, but you also don’t want to be overly repetitive.
As a side-note, one area where a lot of business novices stall in terms of getting their plans off the ground is not knowing what format to choose or start with. The good news is there are a lot of resources available online for you to draw templates for from your plan, or just inspire one of your own.
Using a business plan template
You may want to use a template as a starting point for your business plan. The major benefit here is that a lot of the outlining work that we mentioned is already done for you. However, you may not want to follow the template word for word. A nonprofit business plan may require additional sections or parts that aren’t included in a conventional business plan template.
The best way to go about this is to try and focus less on copying the template, and more about copying the spirit of the template. For example, if you see a template that you like, you can keep the outline, but you may want to change the color scheme and font to better reflect your brand. And of course, all your text should be unique.
When it comes to adding a new section to a business plan template, for the most part, you can use your judgment. We will get into specific sections in a bit, but generally, you just want to pair your new section with the existing section that makes the most sense. For example, if your non-profit has retail sales as a part of a financial plan, you can include that along with the products, services and programs section.
- Free Nonprofit Sample Business Plans - Bplans
- Non-Profit Business Plan Template - Growthink
- Sample Nonprofit Business Plans - Bridgespan
- Nonprofit Business Plan Template - Slidebean
- 23+ Non Profit Business Plan Templates - Template.net
Nonprofit business plan sections
The exact content is going to vary based on the size, purpose, and nature of your nonprofit. However, there are certain sections that every business plan will need to have for investors, donors, and lenders to take you seriously. Generally, your outline will be built around the following main sections:
1. Executive summary
Many people write this last, even though it comes first in a business plan. This is because the executive summary is designed to be a general summary of the business plan as a whole. Naturally, it may be easier to write this after the rest of the business plan has been completed.
After reading your executive summary a person should ideally have a general idea of what the entire plan covers. Sometimes, a person may be interested in learning about your non-profit, but doesn’t have time to read a 20+ page document. In this case, the executive summary could be the difference between whether or not you land a major donor.
As a start, you want to cover the basic need your nonprofit services, why that need exists, and the way you plan to address that need. The goal here is to tell the story as clearly and and concisely as possible. If the person is sold and wants more details, they can read through the rest of your business plan.
This is the space where you can clarify exactly what your non-profit does. Think of it as explaining the way your nonprofit addresses that base need you laid out earlier. This can vary a lot based on what type of non-profit you’re running.
This page gives us some insight into the mechanisms Bucks County Historical Society uses to further their mission, which is “to educate and engage its many audiences in appreciating the past and to help people find stories and meanings relevant to their lives—both today and in the future.”
They accomplish this goal through putting together both permanent exhibits as well as regular events at their primary museum. However, in a non-profit business plan, you need to go further.
It’s important here not only to clearly explain who benefits from your services, but also the specific details how those services are provided. For example, saying you “help inner-city school children” isn’t specific enough. Are you providing education or material support? Your non-profit business plan readers need as much detail as possible using simple and clear language.
For a non-profit to succeed, it needs to have a steady stream of both donors and volunteers. Marketing plays a key role here as it does in a conventional business. This section should outline who your target audience is, and what you’ve already done/plan on doing to reach this audience. How you explain this is going to vary based on what stage your non-profit is in. We’ll split this section to make it more clear.
Nonprofits not in operation
Obviously, it’s difficult to market an idea effectively if you’re not in operation, but you still need to have a marketing plan in place. People who want to support your non-profit need to understand your marketing plan to attract donors. You need to profile all the data you have about your target market and outline how you plan to reach this audience.
Nonprofits already in operation
Marketing plans differ greatly for nonprofits already in operation. If your nonprofit is off the ground, you want to include data about your target market as well, along with other key details. Describe all your current marketing efforts, from events to general outreach, to conventional types of marketing like advertisements and email plans. Specific details are important. By the end of this, the reader should know:
- What type of marketing methods your organization prefers
- Why you’ve chosen these methods
- The track record of success using these methods
- What the costs and ROI of a marketing campaign
This is designed to serve as the “how” of your Products/Services/Programs section.
For example, if your goal is to provide school supplies for inner-city schoolchildren, you’ll need to explain how you will procure the supplies and distribute them to kids in need. Again, detail is essential. A reader should be able to understand not only how your non-profit operates on a daily basis, but also how it executes any task in the rest of the plan.
If your marketing plan says that you hold community events monthly to drum up interest. Who is in charge of the event? How are they run? How much do they cost? What personnel or volunteers are needed for each event? Where are the venues?
This is also a good place to cover additional certifications or insurance that your non-profit needs in order to execute these operations, and your current progress towards obtaining them.
Your operations section should also have a space dedicated to your team. The reason for this is, just like any other business plan, is that the strength of an organization lies in the people running it.
For example, let’s look at this profile from The Nature Conservancy . The main points of the biography are to showcase Chief Development Officer Jim Asp’s work history as it is relevant to his job. You’ll want to do something similar in your business plan’s team section.
Equally important is making sure that you cover any staff changes that you plan to implement in the near future in your business plan. The reason for this is that investors/partners may not want to sign on assuming that one leadership team is in place, only for it to change when the business reaches a certain stage.
The sections we’ve been talking about would also be in a traditional for profit business plan. We start to deviate a bit at this point. The impact section is designed to outline the social change you plan to make with your organization, and how your choices factor into those goals.
Remember the thoughts that go into that mission statement we mentioned before? This is your chance to show how you plan to address that mission with your actions, and how you plan to track your progress.
Let’s revisit the idea of helping inner-city school children by providing school supplies. What exactly is the metric you’re going to use to determine your success? For-profit businesses can have their finances as their primary KPI, but it’s not that easy for non-profits. Let’s say that your mission is to provide 1,000 schoolchildren in an underserved school district supplies for their classes. Your impact plan could cover two metrics:
- How many supplies are distributed
- Secondary impact (improved grades, classwork completed, etc).
The primary goal of this section is to transform that vision into concrete, measurable goals and objectives. A great acronym to help you create these are S.M.A.R.T. goals which stands for: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
Vitamin Angels does a good job of showing how their action supports the mission. Their goal of providing vitamins to mothers and children in developing countries has a concrete impact when we look at the numbers of how many children they service as well as how many countries they deliver to. As a non-profit business plan, it’s a good idea to include statistics like these to show exactly how close you are to your planned goals.
Every non-profit needs funding to operate, and this all-important section details exactly how you plan to cover these financial needs. Your business plan can be strong in every other section, but if your financial planning is flimsy, it’s going to prove difficult to gather believers to your cause.
It's important to paint a complete, positive picture of your fundraising plans and ambitions. Generally, this entails the following parts:
- Current financial status, such as current assets, cash on hand, liabilities
- Projections based off of your existing financial data and forms
- Key financial documents, such as a balance sheet, income statements, and cash flow sheet
- Any grants or major contributions received
- Your plan for fundraising (this may overlap with your marketing section which is okay)
- Potential issues and hurdles to your funding plan
- Your plans to address those issues
- How you'll utilize surplus donations
- Startup costs (if your non-profit is not established yet)
In general, if you see something else that isn’t accounted for here, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and put the relevant information in. It’s better to have too much information than too little when it comes to finances, especially since there is usually a clear preference for transparent business culture.
- How to Make a Five-Year Budget Plan for a Nonprofit
- Financial Transparency - National Council of Nonprofits
Generally, this serves as a space to attach additional documents and elements that you may find useful for your business plan. This can include things like supplementary charts or a list of your board of directors.
This is also a good place to put text or technical information that you think may be relevant to your business plan, but might be long-winded or difficult to read. A lot of the flow and structure concerns you have for a plan don’t really apply with an appendix.
In summary, while a non-profit may have very different goals than your average business, the ways that they reach those goals do have a lot of similarities with for-profit businesses. The best way to ensure your success is to have a clear, concrete vision and path to different milestones along the way. A solid, in-depth business plan also gives you something to refer back to when you are struggling and not sure where to turn.
Alongside your business plan, you also want to use tools and resources that promote efficiency at all levels. For example, every non-profit needs a consistent stream of donations to survive, so consider using a program like GiveForms that creates simple, accessible forms for your donors to easily make donations. Accounting and budgeting for these in your plans can pay dividends later on.
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The 6-Step Guide to Writing a Nonprofit Business Plan in 2023
By Jesse Sumrak
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Nonprofit business plans aren’t just nice to have—more like need to have.
Without a plan, you’re just throwing noodles at the wall and hoping something sticks. That might get you a win now and then, but that’s a hard recipe to replicate.
Now, we’re not suggesting you spend months creating a black-tie, formal nonprofit business plan to frame on the wall or shove in a file cabinet somewhere (do they still make those?).
Not at all.
Instead, we’re advocating you take the time to put your grand ideas and strategies in writing to:
- Chart a course from where you are now to where you want to be
- Check your decisions against your plans
- Fundraise with tip-top efficiency
- Earn loans and grants
- Impress and win over big-time donors
- Convince qualified board members to join the team
It’ll take a little time (there’s no getting around that), but a nonprofit business plan can be a game changer for your organization. Trust us—it’s worth it.
Plus, we’ll walk you through every step along the way. Below, we’ll get into the nitty-gritty details of what a nonprofit business plan is (and isn’t), why you need one, and six steps to creating one that keeps you on track better than a map and compass.
What Is a Nonprofit Business Plan?
A nonprofit business plan outlines your business’ current situation and provides a roadmap for reaching your desired position. It explains your strengths, weaknesses, target market, opportunities, and fundraising strategy at a glance.
That said, your business plan doesn’t need to be a novel, so keep it as short and sweet as possible. It may grow longer as your organization grows and your needs become more complex, but you never want it to become long enough that it’s intimidating to open.
Nonprofit business plans typically include a few common elements:
- Executive summary
- Nonprofit description
- Need analysis
- Products, programs, and services descriptions
- Operational plan
- Marketing plan
- Impact plan
- Financial plan
However, it’s your plan, and you don’t have to include all these sections or stick to these conventional naming methods. Sure, you’ll want financial stakeholders and donors to understand it, but make it your own.
The thing to remember is that your nonprofit business plan isn’t a one-and-done document. It’s a living, breathing record that you should reference and update regularly. That reference part is critical, as it’s there to guide your actions. So look at your plan often to ensure you’re headed in the right direction.
Why You Absolutely Need a Nonprofit Business Plan
You’ve likely heard the stories of famous nonprofits, CEOs, and entrepreneurs who found success without a plan. Yes, it happens, but they’re the exception—not the norm. Trust us—it’s best to have a plan.
Reasons you need a nonprofit business plan
- You’ll outline your goals and objectives to achieve your mission
- You’ll understand your current situation and your target market
- You can identify roadblocks before you run into them
- You’ll determine how you’ll avoid challenges and capitalize on opportunities
- You build awareness for your cause
- You’ll raise funds from donors
- You’ll attract board members, volunteers, and supporters easier
- You can better inspire your team to reach milestones
- You’ll have a way to hold yourself accountable
How to Make a Business Plan for Your Nonprofit Organization
Conventional advice suggests that you get started with your executive summary and nonprofit description, but we’re going to do things a bit differently here.
Why? That method of building out a nonprofit business plan tends to stifle the creative juices. We’ll get to the operational plan, need analysis, and all that fun stuff soon, but let’s take a step back before we dive into those details.
So first, let’s identify your why.
Step 1: Identify Your Why
Figure out why your nonprofit exists. What’s the purpose? Is there a story you want to tell?
You’re just brainstorming here, so don’t be afraid to test different ideas and explore various rabbit holes—that’s all part of the exercise.
- What are your nonprofit’s goals and mission?
- Why does it matter? Why have you invested your personal wealth, time, passion, and energy into your nonprofit?
- What happens if you reach your goals? What happens if you don’t?
Answering these questions will help you get to the root “why” behind your nonprofit. Once you understand (and can articulate) your purpose, you’ll be ready for everything else.
Often, just having a powerful why is enough to convince donors, lenders, and volunteers. Yes, your financials and marketing plan also matter, but everyone loves supporting a good cause.
Step 2: Decide How You’ll Get From Point A to Point B
A business plan helps you get your nonprofit from one place to another. Sure, there’s often no single correct route, you’ll have to navigate your options to see which you believe is the best.
- What’s your nonprofit’s current situation?
- What’s going on with your organization?
- What makes you excited?
- What are you worried about?
Now, it’s time to figure out where you’d like to be, as opposed to what your nonprofit looks like now. This would be your vision of success in three to five years.
Once you’ve figured out your point A (where you are) and point B (where you’d like to be), it’s time to think about how you make the journey. What marketing strategies do you plan to use? How will you raise funds ? Who do you need to bring to the team to make it happen?
Step 3: Describe Your Target Audience
Your nonprofit likely has a few audiences, and their needs are quite different. Take time to explore who these people are. You might not understand exactly what they need yet (and that’s fine), but you should take this opportunity to dive deep into their personas:
- Recipients: The people your nonprofit directly benefits. Who are they? Why do they need your nonprofit?
- Members: The employees and team members who make up your nonprofit. What makes them special? Why did they join your nonprofit, as opposed to all the other options?
- Donors: The people who financially support your nonprofit. Whether these donors range from $5 to $1,000 contributors, they all matter. What makes them give to your nonprofit?
- Volunteers: The people who give their time to support your nonprofit’s events and causes. Who are these givers? Why do they show up?
- Partners: The board members and businesses that back your nonprofit. Who are they? Why do they support your nonprofit?
Going through this exercise helps you see all the different people involved with your nonprofit. Each has unique needs to address and deserves your attention as you outline goals and strategic plans.
Do you feel like you lack information about any of these specific groups? That’s all right. Notice the gaps in information and make it a priority to better understand them. Yes, gaining those insights won’t be an overnight intervention, but at least you can create a plan for how you’ll learn more about them (e.g., surveys, one-on-one conversations, focus groups, and observations).
Step 4: Find Your Roadblocks
There’s always room for improvement, even if everything appears to be going smoothly, which you can address during planning.
- What are you worried about?
- What’s stopping your nonprofit from hitting its goals?
Then, think about your current obstacles:
What’s hindering progress today ? That might be finding a qualified board member, or it could be raising sufficient funding. It also could be getting volunteers to show up at events or finding a way to distribute resources efficiently to your nonprofit’s recipients.
Now, think about barriers you see down the road:
What problems do you foresee years from now? That might be losing donor interest or key partnerships or not adequately growing your team to keep up with demand.
In short, avoid being bashful or covering up issues. After all, this is your business plan—where you honestly address these things.
Once you have a good idea about the problems that need solving, start to think of solutions. Some of these could be as simple as allocating more funds to your hiring team. Others might be more difficult, such as learning how to turn one-off donors into lifelong recurring patrons .
Step 5: Outline Your Fundraising Plan
Fundraising is at the heart of just about any nonprofit. After all, by definition, your organization’s goal isn’t to generate a profit for your owners—it’s to operate and provide a benefit for the public or a particular group. Since you’re not making money by offering goods and services, you’ll need to rely on fundraising for financial support.
Think about how you’ll raise money for your nonprofit. What fundraising ideas will you use? Some ideas include:
- Host a raffle
- Run a car wash
- Invite supporters to a race
- Host a sports tournament
- Surprise donors with a giveaway
- Put on a concert
- Host a silent auction
- Invite supporters to a gala
- Create a game night
- Put together a scavenger hunt
These are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. If you want the best-of-the-best ideas (in more detail), check out our 77 Fundraising Event Ideas for Nonprofits and Charities .
It’s also important to remember that fundraising and volunteering go hand in hand. So while you’re planning your fundraising strategies, start to think about your volunteer program .
- What events will require volunteers?
- When will you need the volunteers?
- Who will volunteer at your events?
- How will you find the volunteers?
Step 6: Fill in Your Nonprofit Business Plan Outline
Finally, you’ve made it to the last step in putting together your nonprofit business plan. By this point, you’ve answered just about every detail that goes into your plan—we just did it in a not-so-boring, roundabout way.
Let’s fill in the details. Nonprofit business plans typically have the following elements:
Your executive summary introduces your nonprofit business plan and an overview of everything inside. This summary convinces readers to turn the page and learn more—it’s where you sell your nonprofit. So borrow ideas from Step 1: Identifying Your Why to drive home the mission and importance of your nonprofit.
While your executive summary is the first document in your nonprofit business plan, it’s best to write it last. You’ll be able to articulate your summary better once you’ve filled out all the other sections.
Explain what your nonprofit does, who it helps, where it’s at, and where you aspire for it to be. This means describing your target audience and making your constituents come to life. You’ll also want to highlight unique opportunities that’ll excite your reader—whether that’s a volunteer, donor, or board member.
Your need analysis (also known as market analysis) supplies research and data to support your nonprofit . It explains the problem and how your nonprofit provides a solution.
For example, if your nonprofit helps veterans, you might underline statistics concerning: disability, financial problems, unemployment rates, and homelessness. Metrics like this can help readers understand the importance of your nonprofit and the scope of the issues that need resolving.
Products, Programs, and Services
Here’s where you explain how your nonprofit addresses the problems or opportunities presented in the need analysis. Outline what products, services, and programs you provide. Be sure to also detail the pricing and costs (if applicable).
Your operational plan details the day-to-day operations of your organization. For example, it might describe how you work with partners, suppliers, and volunteers to execute events and fundraisers.
Spotlight the people behind your organization by putting names and descriptions to the faces. Here are a few individuals to consider highlighting in your nonprofit business plan:
- Management team: Employees full-time and part-time
- Board of directors: Members of your board and their credentials
- Volunteers: Nonemployees helping the cause
- Donors: People who’ve made very generous donations
- Partners: Businesses and organizations you partner with regularly
Describe the campaigns, outreach events, and initiatives you coordinate to reach beneficiaries, donors, and volunteers. Here’s where you’ll include all the details about your target audiences.
Your marketing plan includes any of the channels you use for marketing or communication, such as:
- Social media
- Landing pages
Be sure to include channels you currently use and explore methods you’d like to invest in if you had additional staff or funding.
Nonprofits seek to create lasting change. And your impact plan is where you specify the transformation you’d like your organization to make.
Outline your goals and attach them to numbers (wherever possible). For example, you might want to feed 1,000 struggling families or find housing for 250 immigrants in need.
Also, don’t forget to include the people you’ve helped already. While you might aspire to help more, it helps give perspective to reflect on those your organization has already served.
Nonprofits need money to operate, but money doesn’t grow on trees. So this is where you’ll plan for raising money (and show donors who want to know how you spend their contributions).
Here’s what to include in your financial plan:
- Financial status: Describe your current financial situation and projections. Include all your financial statements: income statement, balance sheet, and cash-flow statement.
- Funding sources: List out grants and significant funds you’ve received.
- Fundraising plan: Outline how you plan to raise additional funds.
- Funding gaps: Explain where you don’t have enough money and how you plan to manage the gap (e.g., fundraise, trim the budget, or forgo).
- Spending plan: Detail how you plan to use donations (e.g., services, hiring, and marketing).
Copy/Paste Nonprofit Business Plan Template
Copy and paste the nonprofit business plan template below and fill in the blanks.
- Executive Summary: Recap your nonprofit business plan.
- Nonprofit Description: Describe what your nonprofit does, its current situation, your mission statement, and goals.
- Need Analysis: Use data to underline the market need to support your nonprofit’s existence and secure funding.
- Products, Programs, and Services: Explain how your nonprofit addresses the market need.
- Operational Plan: Explain the day-to-day operations of your nonprofit and spotlight the people who’ll make it happen.
- Marketing Plan: Outline the channels and methods you use to drive your campaigns.
- Impact Plan: Describe the impact you’d like your organization to make and include the impact you’ve already had.
- Financial Plan: Explain your financial status, future projects, and funding gaps.
Put Your Nonprofit Business Plan Into Action With Classy
Creating your nonprofit business plan is just the beginning—now, it’s time to act. Whether you need to raise funds, host a virtual event, or manage your donations, Classy is the platform you need to do more good.
Don’t just take our word for it. See for yourself.
Schedule a call with our team to get a hands-on walk-through of Classy. You’ll see firsthand how Classy can help you fundraise, attract donors, gain supporters, and streamline all your nonprofit’s processes to achieve your goals.
Learn more about Classy.
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3 Sample Nonprofit Business Plans For Inspiration
Download our Ultimate Nonprofit Business Plan Template here
Below are three sample plans to help guide you in writing a nonprofit business plan.
- Example #1 – Kids Are Our First Priority (KAOFP) – a Nonprofit Youth Organization based in Chicago, IL
- Example #2 – Church of the Sacred Heart – a Nonprofit Church based in St. Louis, MO
- Example #3 – Finally Home – a Nonprofit Homeless Shelter in Los Angeles, CA
Sample Nonprofit Business Plan #1 – Kids Are Our First Priority (KAOFP) – a Nonprofit Youth Organization based in Chicago, IL
Kids Are Our First Priority (KAOFP) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit youth organization that seeks to provide opportunities for students who might otherwise not have access to the arts and humanities. We believe all students should have the opportunity to discover and develop their interests and talents, regardless of socioeconomic status or geographic location. We offer completely free after-school programming in music production, digital photography, creative writing, and leadership development to 12-18-year-olds at risk of dropping out of high school.
Our organization has been active for over five years and has run highly successful programs at two schools in the city of Chicago. We have been awarded an active grant from a local foundation for this coming year, but we will need to cover all costs on our own after that point. Nonprofit administrators have seen a lot of turnovers, leaving the organization without a sustainable plan for reaching its goals.
The Kids Are Our First Priority (KAOFP) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit youth organization with a mission to provide opportunities for development and self-expression to students who might otherwise not have access. Audiences include at-risk, low-income students from elementary through high school in the Chicago area.
Our programs are built around creative learning with two goals: firstly, creating a space for learning and growth; secondly, encouraging students to share their work with the world.
KAOFP runs three different programs in partnership with closely related nonprofit organizations, providing after-school programming for elementary, middle, and high school-aged children. Programs take place twice a week at different schools around Chicago. While each program is unique in its goals and activities, all programs focus on creative development in the arts and humanities.
Products, Programs, and Services
The three programs offered by KAOFP are Leadership Development (LD), Creative Writing (CW), and Music Production (MP). Students learn in small groups led by skilled instructors. All activities are designed to encourage student engagement, creativity, expression, and community building. Instructors encourage students to share their work with the world through presentations on- and off-site.
Leadership Development (LD)
The Leadership Development program is designed to provide leadership opportunities for high school students who might not otherwise have access to these experiences. Students learn about facilitation, collaboration, communication, and organizational skills as they plan and run projects of their own design. The program’s goal is to provide a structured environment that encourages students to become more confident and comfortable being leaders in their schools, communities, and future careers.
Creative Writing (CW)
Students learn how to use writing creatively as a tool for expression, discovery, and communication. In small groups led by skilled instructors, students write poetry, short stories, and essays of their own design. They also learn about the publishing industry, read each others’ work, and share their writing with the community.
Music Production (MP)
Students learn how to use digital media as a tool for expression, discovery, and communication. In weekly sessions led by skilled instructors, students explore music production through computer software and recording equipment. Students produce their own music and write about their experiences in weekly journals. Industry professionals in the community often volunteer to lead special workshops and seminars.
The youth arts and humanities field is extremely competitive. There are many different types of nonprofit organizations doing similar work, but few credible providers with long-term commitments to their communities. KAOFP’s greatest strengths and competitive advantages are our stable and qualified staff, a strong foundation of funding and community support, and a diverse set of programs.
Our biggest competitors include national non-profits with large budgets for advertising and marketing as well as commercial programs that offer music lessons and creative writing courses which may be more cost-effective than our programs. We feel that by focusing on specific areas of creative expression, KAOFP can better serve its communities and differentiate itself from other nonprofit organizations effectively.
KAOFP serves elementary, middle, and high school-aged students with programs that include both after-school and summer programming.
Our focus is on low-income neighborhoods with a high population of at-risk youth. In these areas, KAOFP fills a void in the education system by providing opportunities for creative expression and leadership development to students who would not otherwise have access to these resources.
The demographics of our current students are as follows:
- 91% African-American/Black
- 6% Hispanic/Latino
- 5% Multiracial
- 3.9% Low Income
- 4.9% Not Identified
Our main target is low-income African American and Latino youth in Chicago Public Schools. We would like to expand our outreach to include other communities in need of creative enrichment opportunities.
KAOFP’s marketing program is designed to support student, parent, and staff recruitment by promoting the organization’s goals and programs. Our main target audience consists of parents seeking after-school enrichment opportunities for their children that emphasize creativity and the arts.
To reach this audience, we advertise in public schools as well as on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. We intend to begin marketing online through a company-sponsored blog, which will feature regular updates about KAOFP events and activities. We also intend to use word of mouth as a form of marketing.
Strategic partnerships with local schools and community centers will provide us with additional exposure as well as additional resources to secure funding.
KAOFP’s day-to-day operation is structured around its programs on Tuesdays from 4 pm to 8 pm.
Administrative offices are located in the same space as each program, allowing instructors to closely monitor their students and provide support as needed. The administrative offices serve the essential function of fundraising, communications, record-keeping, and volunteer coordination. KAOFP’s Board of Directors meets bi-monthly to provide further leadership, guidance, and oversight to our board members and volunteers.
Customer service is conducted by phone and email during our regular business hours of Monday – Friday 9 am to 12 pm. We are not open on weekends or holidays.
KAOFP’s organizational structure includes a Board of Directors, an Executive Director, and Program Directors. The Board of Directors provides guidance and oversight to the organization, while the Executive Director manages day-to-day operations. The Program Directors oversee each of KAOFP’s programs.
KAOFP has a small but dedicated staff that is committed to our students and our mission. Our team has a wide range of experience in the arts, education, and nonprofit sector.
The Executive Director is responsible for the overall management of KAOFP. This includes supervising staff, developing and implementing programs, overseeing finances, and representing the organization to the public.
Our Executive Director, Susie Brown, has been with KAOFP since its inception in 2010. She has a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago. Susie is responsible for the overall management of KAOFP, including supervising staff, developing and implementing programs, overseeing finances, and representing the organization to the public.
Each of KAOFP’s programs is overseen by a Program Director. The Program Directors are responsible for developing and implementing the program curricula, recruiting and training program instructors, and evaluating student progress.
Art Program Director
The Art Program Director, Rachel Smith, has a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is responsible for developing and implementing the program curricula, recruiting and training program instructors, and evaluating student progress.
Music Program Director
The Music Program Director, John Jones, has a B.A. in Music Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is responsible for developing and implementing the program curricula, recruiting and training program instructors, and evaluating student progress.
Theatre Program Director
The Theatre Program Director, Jane Doe, has a B.A. in Theatre Arts from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is responsible for developing and implementing the program curricula, recruiting and training program instructors, and evaluating student progress.
Board of Directors
KAOFP’s Board of Directors provides guidance and oversight to the organization. The Board consists of community leaders, educators, artists, and parents. Board members serve three-year terms and can be renewed for one additional term.
KAOFP’s annual operating budget is approximately $60,000 per year, with an additional one-time cost of about $10,000 for the purchase of equipment and materials. The agency makes very efficient use of its resources by maintaining low overhead costs. Our biggest expense is instructor salaries, which are approximately 75% of total expenses.
Pro Forma Income Statement
Pro forma balance sheet, pro forma cash flow statement, nonprofit business plan example #2 – church of the sacred heart – a nonprofit church based in st. louis, mo.
The Church of Sacred Heart is a nonprofit organization located in St. Louis, Missouri that provides educational opportunities for low-income families. We provide the best quality of education for young children with tuition rates significantly lower than public schools. It has been voted Best Catholic Elementary School by the St Louis Post Dispatch for four years running, and it has maintained consistently high ratings of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Google Reviews since its opening in 1914.
The Church of Sacred Heart strives to build strong relationships with our community by making an impact locally but not forgetting that we operate on global principles. As such, our school commits 10% of its profits to charitable organizations throughout the world every year, while also conducting fundraisers throughout the year to keep tuition rates affordable.
We are currently transitioning from a safe, high-quality learning environment to an even more attractive facility with state-of-the-art technology and modern materials that will appeal to young students and their families. New facilities, such as additional classrooms and teachers’ lounges would allow us not only to accommodate new students but also attract current families by having more places within the school where they can spend time between classes.
By taking full advantage of available opportunities to invest in our teachers, students, and facilities, we will be able to achieve steady revenue growth at 4% per year until 20XX.
The Church of Sacred Heart provides a safe learning environment with an emphasis on strong academics and a nurturing environment that meets the needs of its young students and their families. Investing in new facilities will allow us to provide even better care for our children as we continue to grow as a school.
Mission Statement: “We will strive diligently to create a safe, respectful environment where students are encouraged and inspired to learn through faith.”
Vision Statement: “Sacred Heart believes education gives every child the opportunity to achieve their full potential.”
The Church of the Sacred Heart was built in 1914 and is located in the Old North St. Louis neighborhood, an area with a high concentration of poverty, crime, unemployment, and abandoned buildings.
The church houses the only Catholic school for low-income families in the north city; together they formed Sacred Heart’s educational center (SCE). SCE has strived to provide academic excellence to children from low-income families by providing a small, nurturing environment as well as high academic standards.
The facility is in need of renovations and new equipment to continue its mission.
The Church of the Sacred Heart is a small nonprofit organization that provides a variety of educational and community services.
The services provided by Sacred Heart represent a $5 billion industry, with nonprofit organizations accounting for $258.8 billion of that total.
The health care and social assistance sector is the largest among nonprofits, representing 32 percent of revenues, followed by educational services (18 percent), and human and other social service providers (16 percent).
The key customers for the Church of the Sacred Heart are families in need of affordable education. The number of students in the school has increased from 500 when it opened in 1914 to 1,100 at its peak during 20XX-20XX but has since declined due to various reasons.
The children at Sacred Heart are from low-income families and 91 percent qualify for free or reduced lunches. Most parents work or have a family member who works full-time, while others don’t work due to child care restraints. The number of children enrolled in Sacred Heart is stable at 1,075 students because there is a lack of affordable alternatives to Catholic education in the area.
SCE offers K-5th grade students a unique learning experience in small groups with individualized instruction.
Sacred Heart has an established brand and is well known for its high standards of academic excellence, which include a 100 percent graduation rate.
Sacred Heart attracts prospective students through promotional materials such as weekly bulletins, mailers to homes that are located in the area served, and local churches.
Parents and guardians of children enrolled in Sacred Heart are mainly referrals from current families, word-of-mouth, and parishioners who learn about the school by attending Mass at Sacred Heart.
The Church of Sacred Heart does not currently advertise; however, it is one of the few Catholic schools that serve low-income families in St. Louis, MO, and therefore uses word of mouth to attract new students to its school.
The Church of Sacred Heart has an established brand awareness within the target audience despite not having direct marketing plans or materials.
The operations section for the Church of the Sacred Heart consists of expanding its after-school program as well as revamping its facility to meet the growing demand for affordable educational services.
Sacred Heart is located in an area where more than one-third of children live below the poverty line, which helps Sacred Heart stand out among other schools that are more upscale. Expansion into after-school programs will allow it to capture a larger market share by providing additional services to its target audience.
In order to expand, Sacred Heart will have to hire additional personnel as well as invest in new equipment and supplies for both the school and the after-school program.
The Church of Sacred Heart’s financial plan includes a fundraising plan that would help renovate the building as well as acquire new equipment and supplies for the school.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Catholic elementary schools across all grade levels spend an average of $6,910 per pupil on operating expenses. A fundraising initiative would help Sacred Heart acquire additional revenue while expanding its services to low-income families in St Louis, MO.
The Church of the Sacred Heart expects to generate revenues of about $1.2 million in fiscal year 20XX, representing a growth rate of 2 percent from its 20XX revenue level. For 20XX, the church expects revenues to decrease by 4 percent due to a decline in enrollment and the lack of new students. The Church of Sacred Heart has experienced steady revenue growth since its opening in 1914.
- Revenue stream 1: Tuition – 22%
- Revenue stream 2: Investment income – 1%
Despite being located in a poverty-stricken area, the Church of Sacred Heart has a stable revenue growth at 4 percent per year. Therefore, Sacred Heart should be able to attain its 20XX revenue goal of $1.2 million by investing in new facilities and increasing tuition fees for students enrolled in its after-school program.
Income Statement f or the fiscal year ending December 31, 20XX
Revenue: $1.2 million
Total Expenses: $910,000
Net Income Before Taxes: $302,000
Statement of Financial Position as of December 31, 20XX
Cash and Cash Equivalents: $25,000
Property and Equipment: $1.2 million
Intangible Assets: $0
Total Assets: $1.5 million
The board of directors has approved the 20XX fiscal year budget for Sacred Heart Catholic Church, which is estimated at $1.3 million in revenues and $920,000 in expenditures.
Cash Flow Statement f or the Fiscal Year Ending December 31, 20XX
Operating Activities: Income Before Taxes -$302,000
Investing Activities: New equipment and supplies -$100,000
Financing Activities: Fundraising campaign $200,000
Net Change in Cash: $25,000
According to the 20XX fiscal year financial statements for Sacred Heart Catholic Church, it expects its investments to decrease by 4 percent and expects to generate $1.3 million in revenues. Its total assets are valued at $1.5 million, which consists of equipment and property worth approximately 1.2 million dollars.
The Church of Sacred Heart’s financial statements demonstrate its long-term potential for strong revenue growth due to its steady market share held with low-income families in St. Louis, MO.
Nonprofit Business Plan Example #3 – Finally Home – a Nonprofit Homeless Shelter in Los Angeles, CA
Finally Home is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide low-income single-parent families with affordable housing. The management team has a strong background in the social service industry and deep ties in the communities they plan to serve. In addition, Finally Home’s CEO has a background in real estate development, which will help the organization as they begin developing its operations.
Finally Home’s mission is to reinvent affordable housing for low-income single-parent families and make it more sustainable and accessible. They will accomplish this by buying homes from families and renting them out at an affordable price. Finally Home expects its model of affordable housing to become more sustainable and accessible than any other model currently available on the market today. Finally Home’s competitive advantage over similar organizations is that it will purchase land and buildings from which to build affordable housing. This gives them a greater amount of ownership over their communities and the properties in which the homes are located, as well as freedom when financing these projects.
Finally Home plans on accomplishing this by buying real estate in areas with high concentrations of low-income families who are ready to become homeowners. These homes will be used as affordable housing units until they are purchased by Finally Home’s target demographic, at which point the organizations will begin renting them out at a base rate of 30% of the family’s monthly household income.
Finally Home plans on financing its operations through both private donations and contributions from foundations, corporations, and government organizations.
Finally Home’s management team has strong backgrounds in the social service industry, with deep ties to families that will be prepared to take advantage of Finally Home’s affordable housing opportunities. The CEO of Finally Home also brings extensive real estate development experience to the organization, an asset that will be especially helpful as Finally Home begins its operations.
Finally Home is a nonprofit organization, incorporated in the State of California, whose mission is to help homeless families by providing them with housing and support services. The centerpiece of our program, which will be replicated nationwide if successful, is an apartment complex that offers supportive living for single parents and their children.
The apartments are fully furnished, and all utilities are paid.
All the single parents have jobs, but they don’t earn enough to pay market-rate rent while still paying for other necessities such as food and transportation.
The organization was founded in 20XX by Henry Cisneros, a former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who served under President Bill Clinton. Cisneros is the chairman of Finally Home’s board of directors, which includes leaders with experience in banking, nonprofit management, and housing professions.
The core values are family unity, compassion for the poor, and respect for our clients. They are the values that guide our employees and volunteers at Finally Home from start to finish.
According to the United States Conference of Mayors’ Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness 20XX Report, “Hunger & Homelessness Survey: A Status Report on Hunger & Homelessness in America’s Cities,” almost half (48%) of all homeless people are members of families with children. Of this number, over one quarter (26%) are under the age of 18.
In 20XX, there were 9.5 million poor adults living in poverty in a family with children and no spouse present. The majority of these families (63%) have only one earner, while 44% have zero earners because the person is not old enough or does not work for other reasons.
The total number of people in poverty in 20XX was 46.5 million, the largest number since Census began publishing these statistics 52 years ago.
Finally Home’s goal is to help single parents escape this cycle of poverty through providing affordable housing and case management services to support them long term.
Unique Market Position
Finally Home creates unique value for its potential customers by creating housing where it does not yet exist.
By helping single parents escape poverty and become self-sufficient, Finally Home will drive demand among low-income families nationwide who are experiencing homelessness. The high level of need among this demographic is significant nationwide. However, there are no other organizations with the same market position as Finally Home.
Finally Home’s target customers are low-income families who are experiencing homelessness in the Los Angeles area. The organization will actively seek out these families through national networks of other social service providers to whom they refer their clients regularly.
Finally Home expects to have a waiting list of families that are interested in the program before they even open their doors.
This customer analysis is based on the assumption that these particular demographic groups are already active users of other social service programs, so referrals will be natural and easy for Finally Home.
This information is based on the assumption that these particular demographic groups are already active users of other social service programs, so referrals will be natural and easy for Finally Home.
There is a growing demand for low-income single-parent housing nationwide, yet there is no one organization currently providing these services on a national level like Finally Home.
Thus, Finally Home has a competitive advantage and market niche here because it will be the only nonprofit organization of its kind in the country.
Finally Home’s marketing strategies will focus on attracting potential customers through national networks of other social service providers. They will advertise to their referral sources using materials developed by the organization. Finally Home will also advertise its services online, targeting low-income families using Google AdWords.
Finally Home will be reinventing affordable housing to make it more accessible and sustainable for low-income single parents. In this new model, Finally Home will own the land and buildings on which its housing units are built, as well as the properties in which they are located.
When a family is ready to move into an affordable housing unit, Finally Home will buy the home they currently live in. This way, families can take advantage of homeownership services like property tax assistance and financial literacy courses that help them manage their newfound wealth.
Finally Home has already partnered with local real estate agents to identify properties for purchase. The organization expects this to result in homes that are at least 30% cheaper than market value.
Finally Home will finance its operational plan through the use of private contributions and donations from public and private foundations, as well as corporate sponsorships.
Finally Home’s management team consists of:
- Veronica Jones, CEO, and Founder
- Mark MacDonald, COO
- Scott Bader, CFO
The management team has a strong history of social service advocacy and deep ties in the communities they plan to serve. In addition, the organization’s CEO has a background in real estate development that will be helpful as Finally Home begins operations.
- Year 1: Operation startup costs to launch first five houses ($621,865)
- Year 2: Deliver on market offer and complete first capital raise ($4,753,000)
- Year 3: Deliver on market offer and complete $5 million capital raise ($7,950,000)
- Year 4+: Continue to grow market share with a national network of social services providers ($15,350,000).
This nonprofit business plan will serve as an effective road map for Finally Home in its efforts to create a new model for affordable housing.
How to Finish Your Nonprofit Business Plan in 1 Day!
Don’t you wish there was a faster, easier way to finish your nonprofit business plan?
With Growthink’s Ultimate Nonprofit Business Plan Template you can finish your plan in just 8 hours or less!
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- 10 Tips to Make Your Nonprofit’s Business Plan Stand Out
- How to Write a Mission Statement for Your Nonprofit Organization
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How do I write a business plan for a nonprofit organization?
Like for-profit business ventures, nonprofits can create a business plan to describe how they will turn their mission into reality.
The business planning process involves the following steps:
- Researching the market, using a resource such as GuideStar , to see who else might be doing what the nonprofit plans to offer
- Investigating the resources the nonprofit will need to provide the service
- Devising marketing and communication strategies
- Assessing risk
- Determining ways to evaluate success - IssueLab Results is a place for foundations and nonprofits to share funded evaluations and to access the lessons of their peers and colleagues.
You can also use a business plan for a specific project or venture for a nonprofit.
To help diversify their revenue sources, for example, many nonprofits explore ways to earn income by developing their own business ventures. A classic example is Girl Scout cookies. Each year Girl Scout troops sell cookies, and the money they earn goes toward Girl Scout programs. Providing goods or services for a fee can be an important way for a nonprofit to bring in revenue to supplement its fundraising activities.
Selected resources below can help you learn more about creating an overall business plan for a nonprofit organization or specifically for an earned income venture.
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Explore resources curated by our staff for this topic:, staff-recommended websites, business planning (for nonprofits or for-profits).
This site provides an overview of business planning, with a special section focusing on nonprofits. Includes sample nonprofit business plans.
Business Planning for Nonprofits
Provides a listing of suggested resources on business and strategic planning for nonprofit organizations.
Business Planning Tools for Non-Profit Organizations
Offers advice on strategic plans, business plans & feasibility studies, as well as information on financial options, assessing funding sources. Extensive information on planning volunteer programs as well.
Free Nonprofit Sample Business Plans
Foundation Center does not endorse the business planning software sold on this site, but the sample nonprofit business plans provided are helpful and quite comprehensive.
How to Write a Nonprofit Business Plan
This article provides a brief overview of the steps involved in creating a nonprofit business plan.
Nonprofit Business Plan Development: From Vision, Mission and Values to Implementation
This guide provides an overview of the steps in the planning process, (including SWOT analysis), vision and mission statement development, and goal setting.
This full-text article by Donald A. Griesman goes into detail on the process of starting a nonprofit organization. Beginning on page 10, he describes the elements of a business plan for a new nonprofit.
Nonprofit vs. Traditional Business Plans
Entrepreneur.com offers some information on the differences between a nonprofit and traditional business plan.
Sample Nonprofit Business Plans
Along with a link to its full-text article titled “Business Planning for Nonprofits: What It Is and Why It Matters,” the Bridgespan Group gives links to 3 sample nonprofit business plans.
Social Enterprise Business Plan
This outline was developed for nonprofit organizations wishing to embark on earned income ventures with a business model.
Strategic and Business Planning
A resource guide with definitions of planning terms and examples of planning techniques.
Write Your Business Plan
Though not geared specifically to nonprofits, these resources from the SBA cover in detail the elements that should be included in any kind of business plan.
Business plans handbook: non-profit.
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The best nonprofit business plan template in 2023
If you’re looking to start a new charity but don’t know where to start, a nonprofit business plan template can help. There are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations registered in the US. While it’s awesome that there are so many charitable orgs, unfortunately, many of them struggle to keep their doors open.
Like any other business, a nonprofit needs to prepare for the unexpected. Even without a global pandemic, strategic planning is crucial for a nonprofit to succeed.
In this article, we’ll look at why a business plan is important for nonprofit organizations and what details to include in your business plan. To get you started, our versatile nonprofit business plan template is ready for you to download to turn your nonprofit dreams into a reality.
Get the template
What is a nonprofit business plan template?
A nonprofit business plan template is not that different from a regular, profit-oriented business plan template. It can even focus on financial gain — as long as it specifies how to use that excess for the greater good.
A nonprofit business plan template includes fields that cover the foundational elements of a business plan, including:
- The overarching purpose of your nonprofit
- Its long and short-term goals
- An outline of how you’ll achieve these goals
The template also controls the general layout of the business plan, like recommended headings, sub-headings, and questions. But what’s the point? Let’s dive into the benefits a business plan template offers nonprofits.
Download Excel template
Why use a nonprofit business plan template?
To get your nonprofit business plans in motion, templates can:
If you’ve decided to start a nonprofit, you’re likely driven by passion and purpose. Although nonprofits are generally mission-driven, they’re still businesses. And that means you need to have a working business model. A template will give your ideas direction and encourage you to put your strategic thinking cap on.
Help you secure funding
One of the biggest reasons for writing a nonprofit business plan is to attract investment. After all, without enough funding, it’s nearly impossible to get your business off the ground. There’s simply no business without capital investment, and that’s even more true for nonprofits that rarely sell products.
Stakeholders and potential investors will need to assess the feasibility of your nonprofit business. You can encourage them to invest by presenting them with a well-written, well-thought-out business plan with all the necessary details — and a template lays the right foundation.
Facilitate clear messaging
One of the essential characteristics of any business plan — nonprofits included — is transparency around what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it. A nebulous statement with grandiose aspirations but no practical plan won’t inspire confidence.
Instead, you should create a clear and concise purpose statement that sums up your goals and planned action steps. A good template will help you maintain a strong purpose statement and use clear messaging throughout.
Of course, there are different types of nonprofit plan templates you can use, depending on the kind of business plan you want to draw up.
What are some examples of a nonprofit business plan template?
From summary nonprofit plans to all encompassing strategies, check out a few sample business plan templates for different nonprofit use cases.
Summary nonprofit business plan template
New nonprofit ventures in the early stages of development can use this business plan template. It’s created to put out feelers to see if investors are interested in your idea. For example, you may want to start an animal shelter in your community, but aren’t sure if it’s a viable option due to a lack of funds. You’d use a summary business plan template to gauge interest in your nonprofit.
Full nonprofit business plan template
In this scenario, you have already laid the foundations for your nonprofit. You’re now at a point where you need financing to get your nonprofit off the ground.
This template is much longer than a summary and includes all the sections of a nonprofit business plan including the:
- Nonprofit description
- Needs analysis
- Marketing strategy
- Management team & board
- Human resource needs
It also typically includes a variety of documents that back up your market research and financial situation.
Operational nonprofit business plan template
This type of business plan template is extremely detail-oriented and outlines your nonprofit’s daily operations. It acts as an in-depth guide for who does what, how they should do it, and when they should do it.
An operational nonprofit business plan is written for your internal team rather than external parties like investors or board members.
Convinced to give a business plan template a go? Lucky for you, our team has created the perfect option for nonprofits.
monday.com’s nonprofit business plan template
At monday.com, we understand that starting a nonprofit business can feel overwhelming — scrambling to line up investors, arranging fundraising events, filing federal forms, and more. Because we want you and your nonprofit to succeed, we’ve created a customizable template to get you started. It’s right inside our Work OS , a digital platform that helps you effectively manage every aspect of your work — from budgets and high-level plans to individual to-do lists.
Here’s what you can do on our template:
Access all your documents from one central location
Besides a business plan, starting a nonprofit requires a lot of other documentation. Supporting documents include a cash flow statement or a general financial statement, resumes of founders, and letters of support.
monday.com’s Work OS lets you store all these essential documents in one centralized location. That means you don’t need to open several tabs or run multiple programs to view your information. On monday.com, you can quickly and easily access documents and share them with potential investors and donors. Security features also help you control access to any board or document, only letting invited people or employees view or edit them. By keeping everything in one place, you save time on tracking down rogue files or statements and can focus on what really matters, such as running your nonprofit.
Turn your business plan into action
With monday.com’s nonprofit business plan template, you can seamlessly transform your plan into actionable tasks. After all, it’s going to take more than some sound strategic planning to bring your nonprofit to life.
Based on your business plan, you have the power to create interactive vision boards, calendars, timelines, cards, charts, and more. Because delegation is key, assign tasks to any of your team members from your main board. You can even set up notification automations so that everyone stays up to date with their responsibilities. Plus, to make sure the team stays on track, you can use the Progress Tracking Column that shows you the percent to completion of tasks based on the different status columns of your board.
Keep your finger on the pulse
From budgets to customer satisfaction, you need to maintain a high-level overview of your nonprofit’s key metrics.
monday.com keeps you well-informed on the status of your nonprofit’s progress, all on one platform. With customizable dashboards — for example, a real-time overview of donations received and projects completed — and visually appealing views, you can make confident decisions on how to take your nonprofit business forward.
Now that you have the template, let’s cover each section and how to fill it out correctly.
Essential sections of a nonprofit business plan template
So what exactly goes into a nonprofit business plan? Let’s take a look at the different sections you’ll find in most templates.
This is a concise summary of your business at the beginning of your plan. It should be both inspired and to the point. The executive summary is typically two pages long and dedicates about two sentences to each section of the plan.
This section gives some background on your company and summarizes the goal of your business. At the same time, it should touch on other important factors like your action plan for attracting potential external stakeholders. You can think of an organization overview as a mission statement and company description rolled into one.
Products, programs, and services
Any business exists to provide products, programs, and services — perhaps with a focus on the latter two for nonprofits. Your business plan should outline what you are bringing to your community. This will influence your target market , potential investors, and marketing strategies.
An effective marketing strategy is the cornerstone of any successful business. Your marketing plan will identify your target audience and how you plan to reach them. It deals with pricing structures while also assessing customer engagement levels.
The operational plan describes the steps a company will take over a certain period. It focuses on the day-to-day aspects of the business, like what tasks need to be done and who is responsible for what. The operational section of a business plan works closely with strategic planning.
Even nonprofits face competition from other nonprofits with similar business profiles. A market analysis looks at the strengths and weaknesses of competing businesses and where you fit in. This section should include a strategy to overtake competitors in the market. There are many formats and templates you can use here, for example, a SWOT analysis .
Your financial plan should be a holistic image of your company’s financial status and financial goals. As well as your fundraising plan , make sure to include details like cash flow, investments, insurance, debt, and savings.
Before we wrap up, we’ll address some commonly asked questions about nonprofit business plan templates.
FAQs about nonprofit business plan templates
How do you write a business plan for a nonprofit.
The best way to write a nonprofit business plan is with a template so that you don’t leave anything out. Our template has all the sections ready for you to fill in, combined with features of a cutting-edge Work OS.
For some extra tips, take a look at our advice on how to write a business plan . We’ve detailed the various elements involved in business planning processes and how these should be structured.
How many pages should a nonprofit business plan be?
Business plans don’t have to be excessively long. Remember that concise communication is optimal. As a rule of thumb — and this will vary depending on the complexity and size of your business plan — a nonprofit business plan is typically between seven and thirty pages long.
What is a nonprofit business plan called?
A nonprofit business plan is called just that — a ‘nonprofit business plan.’ You may think that its nonprofit element makes it very different from a profit-oriented plan. But it is essentially the same type of document.
What is the best business structure for a nonprofit?
The consensus is that a corporation is the most appropriate and effective structure for a nonprofit business.
How do you start a nonprofit with no money?
Creating a business plan and approaching potential investors, aka donators, is the best way to start a nonprofit business if you don’t have the funds yourself.
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